The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) has announced that the University of South Florida (USF) will receive a US$7.5m grant to establish a national university transportation center (UTC) aimed at advancing research and education programs that address the country’s critical mobility challenges.
The USDOT selected USF from more than 50 applicants nationwide for the highly competitive award. Focused on traffic congestion relief, the USF program will be known as the National Institute for Congestion Reduction (NICR). It will be established within the USF College of Engineering’s Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR). USF’s program seeks to emerge as a national leader in providing multimodal congestion reduction strategies through real-world deployments that make use of advances in technology, big data science and innovative transportation options. USF’s partners in the NICR program will include the University of California Berkeley, Texas A&M University, and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez.
The USDOT invests in the future of transportation through the UTC Program, which awards and administers grants to consortia of colleges and universities across the USA. The Congressionally-mandated program has been in place since 1987 to help address the ever-growing need for the safe, efficient, and environmentally-sound movement of people and goods. The 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act authorized more than US$300m in spending from fiscal years 2016 through 2020 for the maintenance of existing and establishment of new initiatives in research, education and workforce development, and the facilitation of technology transfer.
The USF will be home to the USDOT’s only national center focused on congestion relief projects. The USF’s CUTR has recently worked on the USDOT’s Connected Vehicles Pilot Deployment program in partnership with the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA). The CUTR is currently trialing a self-driving P-1 Shuttle from COAST Autonomous on the USF campus in a study of first/last-mile transportation issues.
“As a preeminent research university located in the heart of the metropolitan Tampa Bay area, the University of South Florida has always been focused on the unique issues and challenges facing modern American cities,” said USF president, Judy Genshaft. “This designation is an affirmation of our leadership in this kind of meaningful applied research and, along with our partners, will allow us to make an even bigger impact.”
USF College of Engineering’s dean, Robert Bishop, said, “This award serves as another example of how USF research has a major societal impact. We are grateful for this opportunity to work hand-in-hand with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and other transportation agency and industry partners. I am particularly pleased that the new UTC includes faculty from across the College of Engineering and also from other disciplines including business, public health and urban planning.”
Florida’s secretary of transportation, Kevin J Thibault, added, “FDOT is pleased to continue to work with USF along with all other Florida universities, aiming to improve safety, reduce congestion and expand the use of technology and partnerships. We hope that the impacts of these coordinated activities will be felt by the transportation industry, agencies and practitioners long after the lifecycle of this grant is completed.”